Richard Ben Cramer

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The Battle Over Citizen Kane Review


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In case your cinematic history only extends as far as the first American Pie, you might be surprised to learn that Citizen Kane is based on the life and times of William Randolph Hearst. Of course, if you didn't know that, you wouldn't know who Hearst was anyway, so you might as well quit reading this, turn off your computer, and get back to your reality TV programming.

In this two-hour documentary, made for PBS and feeling a lot like... it was made for PBS, there's surprisingly little content germane to its title. Mostly, the film talks about the life of Hearst and the life of Orson Welles, separately. It isn't until the last half-hour when Citizen Kane is actually made and discussed, particularly as it relates to Hearst's hatred of it. And rightly so -- Welles was skewering the media magnate in the film; who could blame him for doing everything in his power to stop its release?

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